Friday, January 5, 2007

As always, the “Noble and Knave of the Year” contest wouldn’t be possible without you, The Washington Times readers. Your continued support of the Saturday feature is as welcome as it is humbling. To all who voted, thank you. Now, on to the contest.

Barely edging out Cindy Sheehan for the No. 10 spot in the knave category was everybody’s favorite country band, the Dixie Chicks, and their insufferable lead singer, Natalie Maines. Miss Maines, you might recall, has a history of self-righteous comments, but her latest was that she “didn’t understand the necessity of patriotism.” No doubt she does understand the millions of dollars in sales she earns every year, courtesy of the capitalist system the United States of America set up for her benefit.

Do you want to talk about No. 9 France? No? OK, moving right on to No. 8, Sen. Jim Webb from Virginia. Readers weren’t particularly happy with Mr. Webb’s snub of veterans down at a Virginia Beach event shortly after Mr. Webb unseated George Allen. Many readers also added that Mr. Webb’s snub of President Bush during a reception at the White House influenced their vote. Another lawmaker who seemed to come out of nowhere last year was Rep. John Murtha from Pennsylvania. Mr. Murtha has spent most of his time in Congress parleying with undercover FBI agents, but he appeared on the front pages this year with a full-throated assault on the Iraq war — which, as he discovered, is dangerous business, leading as it does to the saying of all sorts of incomprehensible things. Redeploy to Okinawa? The U.S. presence in Iraq is more dangerous than North Korea?

Then there were the perennial knaves, like the American Civil Liberties Union and nutty college professor Ward Churchill. The Editorial Page is considering banning these sorts of characters from the knave category for life just to give other knaves a chance — which is why the Editorial Page was happy to see a newcomer making waves in the Idiot Department last year, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, earning the No. 4 spot. It was Mr. Nagin who said Hurricane Katrina was God’s way of chastising Mr. Bush for the Iraq war. That kind of rhetoric apparently works down in the Big Easy, where voters rewarded Mr. Nagin with re-election.

Another newcomer on the scene whom the Editorial Page is expecting big things from in the future is Vermont Judge Edward Cashman. Judge Cashman is of the enlightened variety, the kind of judge who looks at a convicted child rapist and feels his pain. So he sentences said child rapist to just 60 days in prison. And if you disagree with his judicial acumen, well, then you’re not as enlightened as Judge Cashman, the No. 3 Knave of the Year.

Your No. 2 Knave was a special case indeed. It isn’t everyday that one of the world’s top universities opens its doors to former members of oppressive regimes. Blame it on multiculturalism. That’s what Yale University did when it admitted a former member of the Taliban — which is fine, except that Yale still doesn’t allow the Reserve Officer Training Corps on campus because of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, or so it says.

Only one vote separated Judge Cashman from Yale. There were, however, more than 130 votes that separated Yale from your Knave of the Year. Usually, the Editorial Page would tease readers a bit before unveiling the winner, but you know who it is. Yes, Jimmy Carter — president, humanitarian, election observer, Nobel Peace Prize winner, world diplomat, author, peanut farmer, alleged plagiarizer, Israel-hater. Is there anything this man hasn’t done? With the deaths of former Presidents Reagan and Ford, Mr. Carter’s continuing presence on the world stage grows ever more wearisome. His place in history is assured, yet unfortunately it is next to the likes of the Cindy Sheehans of the world rather than the Fords and Reagans. By an overwhelming margin, Mr. Carter is the Knave of the Year.

As in years past, Nobles in this year’s contest were a tough bunch to categorize. There were many Nobles on the list, like No. 10 David Dingman-Glover, a child cancer survivor, who overcame incredible odds and revealed extraordinary courage. And there were Nobles who, like No. 7 Oriana Fallaci, spent a lifetime fighting the good fight. Few people call Miss Fallaci a conservative. But Miss Fallaci was a conservative in the fact she knew how precious and rare a creation like Western Civilization is in world history. She looked on with horror as her beloved Italy slowly succumbed to the threat of Islamofascism. Unlike some of her compatriots, however, Miss Fallaci fought back with an unnerving writing style that earned her many enemies. Her death last year was a loss for all true lovers of freedom.

Speaking of courage, readers were impressed with the courage displayed by Dr. Ward Casscells (No. 9) and Staff Sgt. Michael Caldwell (No. 8). Dr. Casscells, now a colonel in the Army reserves, left a successful medical career to enlist. He knew his training would be better suited on the battlefield than in the patient room, especially during a time of war. Sgt. Caldwell, another example of exemplary courage, was wounded on the battlefield but instead of calling it quits decided, as he lay there on the operating table, to re-enlist. Both portrayed a duty to a cause higher than themselves.

Courage of a different sort was revealed by our Americans to the north, the No. 6 Alaskan villagers, who refused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s offer of cheap oil. As many readers pointed out, this was no insignificant show of sacrifice. That far north and that far out of society’s reach, oil is the lifeblood and it doesn’t come cheap. Mr. Chavez knows this, which is why he made his offer. Alaskans threw it back in his face. Well done.

A bit closer to home was BB&T Corp.’s decision not to loan money to private developers who had obtained land by way of eminent domain. Readers told BB&T what they thought of that company policy by voting them into fifth place. Now, if only the Supreme Court could follow BB&T’s example.

Of course what would a year in politics be without a major gaffe from Sen. John Kerry? Fancying himself a comedian, Mr. Kerry made a joke at Mr. Bush’s expense, only it didn’t come off that way. Many a pundit and conservative had their say, but it wasn’t until the Minnesota National Guard, stationed in Iraq, took a picture that everyone finally got the punchline: “Halp us Jon Carry — We r stuck hear in Irak.” They were your No. 4 Noble.

It isn’t often that a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations gets deserved recognition. So the Editorial Page was pleased to see readers honor John Bolton with third place. Unfortunately, Mr. Bolton was the victim of partisan politics and left the United Nations after only a year. But what a year. Have no fear, Mr. Bolton will be back, doing what he does best: Angering liberals and calling down tyrants. Hmm. Come to think of it, that is kind of what your No. 2 Noble has been doing well recently, albeit of a domestic variety. Bill Cosby has angered his fair share of liberals lately, as conservatives and parents applaud wildly in the background. There’s even a book, “Is Bill Cosby Right?” analyzing the points Mr. Cosby makes so unapologetically as he tours the country. The Editorial Page will save you the time of reading: Yes, he is.

One day the Editorial Page hopes that it will not be honoring fallen U.S. soldiers as Nobles as frequently as it does. But that is not today. The country remains at war and Americans continue to die in service to their country, giving, as Abraham Lincoln said, “the last full measure of devotion.” Nowhere is Lincoln’s phrase more apt than when talking about Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor, a member of the Navy SEALs. Petty Officer Monsoor was positioned on a rooftop with his fellow SEALs in Ramadi, Iraq, when a grenade hit him in the chest and rattled to the ground. Petty Officer Monsoor knew the blast would surely kill him and the two SEALs nearest to him. “He never took his eye off the grenade,” said a SEAL later. “His only movement was down toward it.” As one reader asked, “Is there anything more noble?” No, sir, there isn’t, which is why Petty Officer Monsoor is the Noble of the Year.

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